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Pennsylvania manufacturing has potential to expand, new report says

Pennsylvania is losing ground in expanding manufacturing opportunities in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Advisory Council, which has issued a playbook to help build the sector’s competitiveness and highlights recommendations for the state to increase its manufacturing opportunities. 

White House announces major expansion to open access policies

A recent announcement from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) included major updates requiring open access to federally funded research. The new guidance will require federal agencies to ensure that all taxpayer-funded research is immediately available to the public, disallowing the previous optional 12-month embargos.

Commerce releases info on plans for CHIPS funding

The recently-passed CHIPS and Science Act included $54.2 billion in appropriations, largely for semiconductor manufacturing incentives ($39 billion) and R&D ($11 billion). The administration is releasing information about its planned distribution of funds. Recent resources include: a strategic plan from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the agency administering the bulk of the funding; a research recommendations report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST); and, a new CHIPS.gov website from Commerce.

Recent announcements reveal “mega” trends in electric vehicle and battery manufacturing expansions

The recently approved Inflation Reduction Act with new incentives for electric vehicle ownership and energy efficiency is likely to continue a trend among states for the location of major economic development projects, a trend toward everything mega—megasites, megadeals, mega factories, and mega projects. These large-scale manufacturing projects typically feature incentives from state and local governments, such as access to shovel-ready megasites or large tax incentive packages. These new "mega" trends have raised the stakes and increased competition between states as they advocate for the bid of electric vehicle and battery companies looking to expand.

Treasury announces five more states’ plans approved for SSBCI

Five additional state plans for the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) have received approval from the U.S. Department of Treasury, bringing the current total of announced states to 19. Over the past month, Treasury announcedthat plans in Colorado, Montana, New York, North Carolina and Oregon were approved. Some details on the plans are outlined below.

Study indicates racial bias in NSF grant funding

A group of seven researchers analyzed upwards of one million National Science Foundation (NSF) proposals over a 23-year period (1996-2019) and found patterns of racialized disparities where white principal investigators (PIs) were consistently funded at higher rates (8+ percent) than most non-white PIs. The preprint study (not peer reviewed) states that similar patterns can be observed in other agencies and are consistent with other past studies as well. The question of whether systemic racism is at play in the NSF peer review and award selection process is even more pronounced when one considers more specific demographics such as Black and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander PIs.

ARC launches $73.5 million grant initiative to grow regional economies in Appalachia

A new $73.5 million grant opportunity using funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is aimed at growing and supporting the development of new economic opportunities across multiple states in Appalachia. The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) launched the Appalachian Regional Initiative for Stronger Economies (ARISE) on Aug. 23 to drive large-scale, regional economic transformation through multi-state collaborative projects across the region. ARC has published a request for proposals, which makes available at least $10 million in FY 2022 funding for planning grants with a maximum award size of $500,000, and up to $63.5 million for implementation grants with a $10 million maximum award size. ARC has released a toolkit to help guide potential applicants in considering their multistate proposals and will hold a pre-application workshop on Sept. 12.

Four new NSF Engineering Research Centers announced

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced four new Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) that will focus on agriculture, health, manufacturing and smart cities. The research centers will receive $104 million over five years and will be aimed at finding more sustainable solutions to food production, autonomous manufacturing systems, human health and the built environment, and hyperlocal street technology. The four research centers are: 

GAO, Future of EPSCoR committee issue reports

Jurisdictions that were early EPSCoR participants benefitted more from the program with higher project approval rates, but whether program goals are being met is unclear, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report examining National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). The GAO report and another from the subcommittee on the Future of EPSCoR looked at the effectiveness of the program and made recommendations for improvement.

Congressional inaction threatens SBIR program

The federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, providing nearly $4 billion in technology research and development funding, expire — in just six weeks — on Sept. 30. Unlike many federal programs that regularly operate beyond the end of their authorization, there is no direct SBIR appropriation that will ensure the program continues as-is without congressional action. Instead, SBIR would be on an agency-by-agency basis. The Department of Defense already announced it “cannot continue funding new or ongoing” projects without reauthorization, and the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) has warned that even the agencies that carry on may have challenges with SBIR data rights (a non-disclosure obligation on the federal government for certain information developed under an SBIR/STTR award) and post-award (i.e., Phase III) purchases of SBIR-developed technologies by federal agencies.

Five things to know about the Inflation Reduction Act

President Joe Biden has signed the Inflation Reduction Act, a $740-billion bill that largely focuses on clean energy and climate resiliency, deficit reduction and health care, funded through tax changes. Unlike the initial proposals for a reconciliation spending package, this legislation provides little spending that will directly affect tech-based economic development strategies, although its climate provisions will spur significant growth opportunities for cleantech. There are multiple provisions and opportunities included in the act that are important for regions to understand.

GAO finds new Air Force SBIR process increases participation and geographic distribution of awards

A new open topic approach used by the U.S. Air Force in issuing Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards coincided with an overall increase in the agency’s SBIR/STTR participation figures and proposal processing times, according to a recent federal analysis. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that using open topics for soliciting Phase I proposals, which the Air Force implemented in 2018, has largely displaced the agency’s conventional process of offering very specific research topics. The open approach was found to be more effective in attracting new companies to federal contracting and issuing awards quickly. GAO found nearly 43 percent of the 1,001 open topics awardees had no prior federal contract experience compared to only 14 percent of the 771 conventional awardees being new to federal procurement. Additionally, GAO reports that an April 2021 study found that after receiving an open topic award these awardees were more likely to obtain further funding from other sources.

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